The death and resurrection of Jesus is the central interpretive event in the Bible and in all of Christian faith. How Christians live and what Christians know depends radically on Jesus' death and resurrection.
First, choose a biblical text that reasons theologically from Jesus' death and resurrection to the authors' various concerns. Here are some examples:
Eph. 2:1-10 (or Eph. 2)
Col. 1:3-23 (or Col. 1)
1 Thess. 1
1 Thess. 4
Or any other text whose reasoning draws explicitly on the death and resurrection of Jesus (review especially Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 John, Revelation). I'm tired of finding examples!
Second, as an exercise to help you concentrate on your text, do one of the following two things in order to meditate on the text at length devotionally, critically, and theologically:
A. Copy all or part of that biblical text by hand with all the deliberation you can muster. Try to do it in careful, or even beautiful, handwriting (calligraphy is especially appropriate, but only if you already know it). I recommend practicing rather than just submitting your first attempt. You may even choose to illuminate the text graphically. (For more on illuminated manuscripts, browse the fascinating website of the St. John's Bible, the first illuminated Bible project in 500 years. At an event in Collegeville in 2002 I was privileged to attend a presentation on the project. The site's video galleries and image galleries are ultracool.)
B. Study the passage and practice reading it aloud until it "passes through your life." Aim to meet the expectations of this passage in Robert Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought (New Haven: Yale, 2003), pp. 181-182:
All Christian witness is in the first person, a truth I learned in training lectors to read the lessons in the liturgy. When I began to work with lectors I thought the most important thing was to read slowly and loudly. But then I began to realize that pace and volume were insufficient. Often the readers did not understand what they were reading. This led me to spend time with them studying the meaning of the passages to be read. But then I sensed that understanding was not enough. The readers had to learn to speak not in the voice of Paul or Isaiah but in their own voice — using, of course, the words of Paul or Isaiah. The text must pass through the life of the lector so that it becomes a living word in the present, not a recitation of what someone said long ago. Only then can the lesson be heard by the congregation as the Word of God. As Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "The word of God which you heard from us, you accepted not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers" (1 Thess. 2:13).
Note well: this step is not meant to be "busy work." It is a means for you to "indwell" the tradition of Christian Bible reading (think Polanyi in Newbigin). If you are finding it to be busy work, you are not working as reflectively as you should be.
Third, drawing on the course materials — any of which might bear upon your text and guide your interpretation fruitfully — analyze the passage's flow of logic from the story of Jesus to particular matters of the Christian faith. (In other words, show how the passage "goes through Atlanta" to address some other topic.)
Please turn in your hand-copied passage. Keep your analysis three pages, double-spaced, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. Remember, I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.
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